You all know the rule. No, not the Golden Rule, which of course is never speak to John Hamm unless Hamm speaks to you first, no matter how handsome and inviting he looks. Seriously, Hamm is like Bieber for MILFs.
I mean the "Pick Two" rule -- cheap, fast, or good. Most people when hiring someone for a project want all three, but as many a project manager knows, that's next to impossible. Cheap and fast? Probably won't be good. Fast and good? Ain't likely gonna be cheap. You get the idea.
The problem with online news operations like Demand Media and Yahoo's new "Contributor Network" (its "Rebranding" of Associated Content) is they are trying to accomplish all three. They want to pay pittance freelance fees for real-time reporting and have those stories be good enough to stand as quality news and commentary.
I'm not saying it won't work, I'm merely saying it shouldn't. If you can get good journalism fast and pay only a couple bucks per story -- more if your SEO jitsu is good enough to drive page views -- then that just encourages further commoditization and pushes writers to favor quantity over quality. At some point the "cheap" will kill the "good," or good journalism (and journalists) will demand better pay.
Quality shouldn't get brushed aside for speed or cost. The more that companies treat news as just another category of "content," the more it's the public that will suffer the consequences.